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VIDEO: Williamsburg Artist's Dresses Double as Performance Art

By  Serena Dai and Janet Upadhye | March 30, 2015 7:35am 

Williamsburg Artist Opens Boutique Where Dresses Are Performance Art
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DNAinfo/Janet Upadhye

WILLIAMSBURG — Williamsburg's newest clothing boutique won't be selling dresses — it will sell wearable pieces of art.

And the women who buy them won't be customers, they'll be "collectors," said artist and designer Lital Dotan.

Boutique Que sal mah, at 246 Union Ave., will be a space where Dotan hosts the hour-long process of transforming a single piece of cloth into a dress — right onto the woman's body.

The dressmaking process itself is the art, Dotan said.

"She comes in for the experience rather than to purchase the dress," she said of her clients. "It ends wth the garment, the dress. But that's a documentation and manifestation of the process that she went through."

 Artist Lital Dotan says the one-on-one process of creating a dress on a woman is part of the artistic experience.
Que Sal Mah Makes Dresses in Williamsburg as Performance Art
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Dotan started making the dresses for herself in 2007 as a daily ritual, cutting, tying and sewing the piece right on her body in what she described as both a design process and a dance.

She sometimes filmed the process in places like the Dead Sea and later played the videos in her home, which doubles as art gallery The Glasshouse.

Soon, women started asking her where she got her dresses from, Dotan said. She started working on creating the dresses on other women's bodies.

The experience starts with a woman choosing one of several dress designs, which will change with the season. Dotan discusses the women's preferences — whether she wants it for a formal or casual event, what kind of clothes she likes to wear and what kind of fit she wants.

Then, Dotan takes the cloth and begins the process of creating the dress on the woman's body with knots and cuts. She doesn't stitch, instead taking scraps from the cloth to connect other parts.

While most purchased clothes take time to become part of the woman's personality, the woman establishes a relationship with this dress immediately, Dotan said.

Usually, the experience becomes "very emotional," with the woman and Dotan talking about whatever is on the woman's mind.

"I don't want to say the word magic, but there's something about these dresses that are really a form of expression," Dotan said. "This was created for you. It was created as you."

The cost of a one-on-one dressmaking and "short theatrical piece" session starts at $1,100.

Dotan's boutique will also offer ready-to-wear tops, which start at $400, and dresses, which start at $800.

But even the pre-made pieces involve performance art, Dotan said.

She doesn't use mannequins, instead choosing to create the dresses on her own body. She uses padding techniques to make different sizes for different bodies.

Once a woman chooses a ready-to-wear piece, Dotan will still help adjust it to fit her body.

"They are one a of kind," Dotan said.

Que sal mah, which means "dress" in ancient Hebrew, will be open by appointment starting next month.